About Amanda Schutz
I am a PhD candidate in sociology and expect to defend my dissertation, "Congregation Among the Least Religious: The Process and Meaning of Organizing Around Non-Belief," in the spring of 2018. I received my MA in sociology from the University of Arizona (2012) and my BA in sociology and communication from Indiana University Northwest (2009).
Areas of Study
Compelling evidence suggests that American religion is undergoing a significant transformation. Though most people still consider themselves religious, numerous outlets report steady declines in affiliation, participation, and belief. My research is driven by a desire to understand the origins of these trends, the varieties of “nonreligion” emerging in their wake, and how the nonreligious navigate social encounters in a society that nevertheless remains devout (albeit increasingly less so). To address these themes, my research engages various subfields of sociology, including culture, deviance, organizations, and social movements, as well as investigating intersections of secularism with gender, race, politics, and education.
My dissertation—funded by the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and the Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Institute at the University of Arizona—uses qualitative methods to explore different forms of organized non-religion in Houston, TX, as well as characteristics and experiences of the nonbelievers who join them.
Throughout the course of this project, I found a great deal of variation among this local nonreligoius community, not unlike the diversity that exists in American religion. Each organization has distinct goals and priorities, which are displayed to potential members via the types of meetings and activities they sponsor. Individuals join these organizations for community, social justice, and spiritual fulfillment—reasons similar to those who join religious congregations—and they leave when they perceive the organizations as showing signs of institutionalized prejudice, groupthink, and ideological factionalism—afflictions that plague all types of groups. I also find that, collectively, nonbelievers of all stripes share a similar set of values, constructing a nonreligious moral code they perceive as superior to that of believers. These values inform organizational priorities, and may suggest future directions and foci for these groups as nonreligiousness becomes increasingly normative in American society.
Religion and Secularism, Race/Class/Gender Inequality, Identity, Boundaries, Social Movements, Informal Organizations and Communities, Deviance, Morality
SOC 101: Introduction to Sociology (classroom)
SOC 222: Gender Identities, Interactions, and Relationships (classroom, online)
SOC/RELI 322: Sociology of Religion (classroom, online)
SOC 330: God in the Movies (online)
SOC 374: Social Research Methods (classroom)
SOC 447: Explaining Deviance (online)